Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Face to Facebook

Face to Facebook

April 14, 2009 by Rick Zabel

There is nothing better than face to face meetings. Unfortunately, face to face meetings are not always possible, especially if the participants live in different parts of the country or world. Social networking tools have become a defacto standard of communication for many people and the trend is spreading from younger generations to older generations.

Take my own family, for example. It seems that Facebook has spread like a virus among my family members. I personally created a profile on Facebook well over a year ago, but I was never very active. Then, my sister-in-law joined and somehow found me and requested to be my “friend.” My wife actually resisted for a while, but eventually broke down and joined. Now she’s addicted. Before I knew it, virtually every member of my wife’s family was on Facebook, within a matter of days. Even my Mother-in-law (who is 70) and her sisters have joined – and they are all very active. My side of the family, however, has been harder to penetrate.

Facebook has turned out to be a great way to stay connected with friends and family. But you have to set boundaries or it could easily consume you. And that’s not good for anyone. My wife loves to browse her page and see what all her friends and family members are doing on a regular basis. I guess I just don’t care what everyone is doing on a daily basis. I’m social when I choose to be. After all, I am an engineer. I tend to use Facebook as more of a tool to communicate with people who are not readily available via phone or e-mail.

So what’s my point in all this? The use of social networking tools is becoming more widespread. Not only are they penetrating all generations, but they are also penetrating more niche industry segments. I believe it’s just a matter a time before the automation industry (more specifically engineers) fully embraces these social mediums. Come on, I’ve seen you guys and gals at some of those user conference parties, so I know you can be social. The challenge is convincing you of the value of participating.

The value of social networking is similar to the value of most user conferences in our industry; i.e. learning strategies and best practices from your peers. Your social networking options continue to increase, so now you can choose the best option(s) for you. Here are four sites for your consideration.

Of course, many of you already know about’s own professional networking site, which we started more than two years ago. Today, the site has nearly 2000 members.

LinkedIn is a professional networking tool with an original premise of networking for job or career changes. LinkedIn has expanded the site to offer topic specific groups, news feeds and discussions. A few months ago, I created the Automation Group on LinkedIn that now has more than 1850 members.

Twitter is a text-based social media outlet that allows members to follow other members and communicate via short, 140 character messages. If you are into “twittering,” check out Profile so you can follow our activities.

Just last week, I created the Automation, Process Control & Instrumentation Group on Facebook, primarily because Facebook has a huge user base and more people are probably more comfortable with using it, as opposed to any other medium. I have reserved my personal profile on Facebook for just my close friends and family, but I welcome all of you to join the Automation, Process Control & Instrumentation Group.

Each of these web sites (or groups) has a different look and feel, but all of them have one purpose – to allow automation professionals to network with other automation professionals. I encourage you to check them all out and join (and participate) in one or more. I’ll do my best to stay active on them all, but I may slip a little now and then, depending on my work load and “social mindset.” I hope to see more of you online.